"The ability to communicate effectively with others is such an important part of our existence, and as a speech therapist I have the opportunity to help people with this aspect of their life."
I met Christa through my BFF Jilly a few years ago. She is the sweetest soul and radiates this really sincere, kind energy. She's one of those people that will ask questions about your life and then truly care about the answer. It's been great to get to know her: always up for an adventure, effortlessly beautiful, and a solid Euchre player (#michigan).
She is currently doing an internship as the victory lap of her Master's in Speech-Pathology. It was so interesting to hear about her work and what she has learned in her program. I felt like others would appreciate hearing about her journey and learning a bit more about such a significant field.
You know, just another babe who is changing the world. Meet Christa.
What has your education journey been so far?
I studied Speech-Language pathology at Calvin for undergrad and went to University of Northern Colorado for grad school.
What encouraged you to go into Speech-Pathology?
I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession but in college I was not sure exactly what route to take. I had never heard of a speech therapist before but my family friend told me I should shadow her son’s speech therapist for a day and I thought it was worth a shot. I loved it and as I started to learn more about the job through classes at Calvin, I began to love it even more. I appreciate that the field of speech-language pathology is so broad and can involve a wide variety of clients. Speech therapists can be in school settings, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, and private practice all which deal with a unique population of people.
What is one of the most interesting thing you learned in school?
One of my favorite classes was about Augmentation and Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC devices can be used for communication by people who are nonverbal or minimally verbal. There are a variety of different devices, but often a device will look similar to an iPad and will have a collection of buttons on the screen containing words/pictures. The user presses the buttons and the device speaks the words for them. We had an on-campus clinic at UNC where I saw clients for speech therapy. One of my first clients was an 11-year-old boy who could not speak any words and communicated mostly with sounds, gestures, and some basic sign language. I started working with him on using an AAC device to communicate and (after a lot of hard work) it was amazing to see how many things he could say with the device. Through my AAC class and my experience with this client, I learned to never underestimate anyone’s ability to communicate.
How has it been to take your education and put it into practice through your current internships?
It is certainly very different learning by sitting in a classroom and actually being thrown into the job. I feel like my education provided me with a great foundation of knowledge, but I have learned more about speech pathology in the past few months of my internships than I ever did in school. I completed my first internship in an elementary school and early childhood center and I am now in my second and final internship in a hospital setting. It has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun to finally put everything into practice!
What has your experience been like so far in the hospital setting?
I do quite a bit of swallowing evaluation and therapy. Although swallowing is very different than speech, we use the same area of our body for both which is why this is part of the speech therapist’s job. We do X-ray video swallow evaluations to watch the patient’s swallow and make sure that no food or drink is going into their airway instead of into their esophagus. Then we make safe diet recommendations and work with the patient in therapy to get their swallowing muscles stronger.
What is something about speech pathology you would like people to know?
Speech pathology is not all about fixing lisps or helping kids say their “r” sound. Although that can be part of the job, there is much more to it. In a school, we work on the ability to say certain sounds but we can also work on social language skills, vocabulary, grammatical structures in speech, or reading comprehension. In a medical setting, we work on language, cognition, and swallowing with patients who have had strokes, brain injuries, or debilitating diseases.
You are a Grand Rapids girl through and through…what are some of your favorite local places?
So many to choose from! But for food lately I’ve been digging Luna, The Mitten, and Donkey. For beer I love just about any brewery in Grand Rapids but the Knickerbocker is a recent favorite. The Downtown Market is always a fun place to hang out and I always love some good Thursday night line dancing at the Back Forty :)
Where do you find your inspiration in your life and in your career?
In other people and in the outdoors! The ability to communicate effectively with others is such an important part of our existence, and as a speech therapist I have the opportunity to help people with this aspect of their life.
Thanks to Down To Earth in Grand Haven for the clothes/accessories for this shoot. The dress was the most buttery, cozy piece (but they had a ton of great options to choose from). Check out the boutique below:
FACEBOOK: Down To Earth
Also, you can find Christa on Instagram @christavkamp!